Winter Grazing: Annual Forages Improve Lamb Growth and Health Parameters

Dr. Brady Campbell, Assistant Professor, State Small Ruminant Extension Specialist

Fall is for harvest. Whether directly involved in production agriculture or a consumer of its products, most associate this time of year with combines harvesting soybeans and corn in the field or farm stands filled with pumpkins and apple cider. However, for livestock producers and especially those raising ruminants, harvest looks a bit different. This time period is the final push for grazing corn fodder/stubble, stockpiled forages, or annuals planted in the late summer before environmental conditions force producers off of pasture and into the barn or drylot to feed grain and hay. For those that planned ahead, well done! Each of these options provide high quality feedstuffs that are self harvested by the animal, resulting in a cheaper feed source. For those that weren’t able to sacrifice the land or weren’t prepared for planting, no worries, there is always next year.

Some of you may be thinking, what forages would provide enough nutritional quality to get me through the year? For those that were able

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Optimizing Reproductive Efficiency in Sheep Production with Strategic Nutritional Management

This hour long webinar seems to be quite timely both due to the fact that fall breeding is well under way across the nation as well as many here in the Midwest are fully emerged in fall lambing. Nutrition is key when discussing the benefits and hardships of livestock production. For those that will be joining us for Ohio Sheep Day this Saturday, October 2, I encourage you to take some time to listen to Dr. Richard Ehrhardt as he discusses how to maximize nutritional management to improve reproductive efficiency. At Ohio Sheep Day, we will be discussing alternative forage and feeding options that can be implemented on farm to achieve these needs. We look forward to seeing you then!

Steps to Speed Up Field Curing of Hay Crops

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University

As the hay making season comes to a close, shorter days potentially mean less heat and sunlight needed to dry our final hay crops for 2021. For those planning on getting one more cut over the next month, the tips and tricks needed to speed up field curing time may be of great benefit to both you and your livestock. Enjoy!

The rainy weather in many regions of Ohio and surrounding states is making it difficult to harvest hay crops. We usually wait for a clear forecast before cutting hay, and with good reason because hay does not dry in the rain! Cutting hay is certainly a gamble, but waiting for the perfect stretch of weather can end up costing us through large reductions in forage quality as the crop matures.

As we keep waiting for perfect haymaking weather, we will reach the point where the drop in quality becomes so great that the hay has little feeding value left. In such cases, it may be better to gamble more on the weather just to get the old crop off and a new one started. Some rain damage is not going to reduce the value much in that very mature forage. Continue reading

Using Nutrient Removal Rates to Improve Forage Productivity

James Morris, OSU Extension Educator, Brown County
Greg LaBarge, OSU Extension Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems

(Figure 1. Yellow unthrifty grass stand spring 2021)

As the calendar flips over to August and temperatures continue to rise, our cool season forages are in the heart of what we call the “summer slump” and vegetative growth begins to decline. Numerous resources are available that provide excellent strategies for reducing the negative effects of this slump. Forage growers can utilize summer annuals to boost yields during this time of the year, but it’s also important to ensure our forage stands are healthy prior to be exposed to heat and other environmental stressors. So, while “summer slump” seems to get all of the attention right now, what if our forages had “spring fever”? Continue reading

Double-Crop Forages to Maximize Summer Forage Potential

Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Crawford County

Many producers use summer annual forages for grazing and stored forage to either fill the summer slump or keep livestock feed through the winter. With wheat harvest finalized across most of the state and straw baling completed for many now our attention turns to creating a second or third profit center off those wheat acres.

Wheat acres provide an excellent opportunity for double-cropping with forages that when harvested at the proper growth stage can either make high quality late gestation early lactation forage, grazing opportunities, or gut fill to mix lower the quality of other forages or concentrates.

Many species of summer annuals can be utilized for forage. Some of them such as radish and turnip can be easily grazed but do not make good stored forage as baleage or dry hay. For dry hay we have found the best two species to be teff and oats. Most other species can be harvested as silage or baleage. Be cautious making Continue reading

It’s Time for Summer Annuals to Shine

Amber Friedrichsen, Hay and Forage Grower summer editorial intern
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 29, 2021)

With the first day of summer in the rearview mirror, temperatures are only expected to accelerate. Forage production, on the other hand, will likely slow down. This is when summer annuals can take the wheel and keep forage production on track for the remainder of the season.

Sorghum-sudangrass and pearl millet are among the most popular summer annuals. Proper management of these grasses begins with planting in the spring. When soil temperatures reach 65°F, seeds can either be broadcast or drilled 2 inches deep.

Although these forages can be cut for hay, Charlotte Meeks with University of Georgia Extension states the best way to harvest summer annuals is to Continue reading

Fertilizing Hay and Pastures

Dr. Mark Sulc, OSU Extension Forage Specialist, The Ohio State University
Greg LaBarge, OSU Field Specialist, Agronomic Systems Department of Extension
(Previously published in the C.O.R.N. Newsletter 16-2021)

Many hay producers across the state have completed or are in the process of completing their first cutting of the year. One of the two best times to top-dress maintenance fertilizer on hay is right after the first cutting. The other top choice is in the early fall. Remember that hay crops will remove about 50 lbs. of K2O and 12 lbs. of P2O5 per ton of dry hay harvested.

Fertilizer can be top-dressed on hay or pastures at any time during the growing season, but right after the first cutting and early fall provide times when the soils are usually firm enough to Continue reading

Perennial Weeds can Indicate Soil Health Problems in Pastures

Dean Kreager, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Licking County
(Previously published in Farm and Dairy: May 6, 2021)

If plants could talk, we could learn a lot, and our jobs as stewards of the land would be much easier. When we go to the doctor because we are sick, we do not sit quietly and expect the doctor to know how we feel and then tell us how to get better. We need to provide information that will help with the diagnosis.

But since plants cannot talk, our job is difficult when we try to locate the source of a problem, such as low productivity or an infestation of weeds.

Recently, one of my colleagues, Ed Brown, suggested a method of taking stock of what is growing in your pasture. Knowing what plants are growing in your pastures is an important first step in listening to what the pasture is telling you. Varieties of plants or changes in these populations from year to year can provide important clues. Continue reading

Sheep Mineral Nutrition

With pastures full of lush, green forage, depending upon the quality and quantity of forage available, producers tend to discount the need for supplementation when managing ewes and does before the next breeding cycle. Unfortunately, with this being said, the importance of a complete mineral program is often forgotten. Join Dr. Francis Fluharty, current Department Head and Professor at the University of Georgia and emeritus professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University as he reviews the basic principles and importance of providing a comprehensive mineral program on a yearly basis within our small ruminant systems.

Feeding Small Ruminants: Developing a Grazing System for Sheep and Goats

Rocky Lemus, Extension Forage Specialist, Mississippi State University
Kipp Brown, Extension Area Agent, Mississippi State University Extension
(Previously published online with Mississippi State University Extension: July, 2008)

Small farming operations are becoming more popular as the amount of land available for large livestock enterprises and row crops is reduced by urban sprawl. Small ruminant livestock systems such as sheep and goats fit well with small farm operations. Forages, whether are grazed or hayed, supply the major source of nutrition and a critical component to small farm enterprises to maintain sustainability. Many of these small farm owners are either newcomers to farming or people living in urban areas and see them as “hobby” farms. There is a critical need to educate them on the basic agricultural practices and forage utilization for this type of livestock management.

The grazing habits of sheep and goats differ from traditional livestock production and they can be incorporated into the grazing systems for cattle and horses. Goats tend to browse more while sheep tend to graze. Goats are efficiently used in pasture utilization controlling brush and weed. Continue reading

Ruminal Acidosis (Grain Overload)

Dr. Richard Bowen, Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University
(Previously published online with Colorado State University, VIVO Pathophysiology)

The rumen encases a complex ecosystem containing numerous species of bacteria and protozoa that collectively provide the capacity for efficient fermentation of carbohydrates. Among the major products of such fermentation are volatile fatty acids and lactic acid. Wild ruminants and those raised on pasture consume a diet rich in grasses of one sort or another that consist mostly of cellulose. Cellulose is a molecule that might be called a “slowly fermentable carbohydrate”. In contrast, grains such as wheat, barley, and corn are considered “highly fermentable carbohydrates”, meaning that they can be very rapidly fermented to generate – you guessed it – large quantities of volatile fatty acids and lactic acid. Ruminal acidosis results from consumption of a unaccustomed quantity of highly fermentable carbohydrate, almost always well described as grain overload.

Ruminal acidosis is Continue reading